CIOs need to get behind telework, GSA says

CIOs need to get behind telework, GSA says

Agency CIOs are partly to blame for only about 100,000 of 750,000 eligible federal employees teleworking at least one day a week, GSA deputy administrator David Bibb says.

Not enough IT managers are aware of the role they must play to support telework, Bibb said last week at a lunch in Washington sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council of Fairfax, Va.

“CIOs are too interested in making sure the office infrastructure is working well and they need to learn more about how to make sure the telework infrastructure works,” he said.

The government’s telework efforts need to “increase substantially because the ability for the federal government to operate more effectively, attract and retain people in the future, and the ability to give people some kind of quality of life that does not include two hours of gridlock each way—all of those are bound up in increasing our ability to telework,” Bibb said.

Further, management resistance also has hampered federal telework efforts, he said.

A recent study of agency telework programs by CDW Government Inc. supports Bibb’s assertions. The Vernon Hills, Ill., company surveyed 287 federal workers and found most employees still are unaware of telework policies and programs.

Of the 287 in-person interviews, CDWG talked with 139 feds from a variety of jobs and 148 IT workers.

The survey found that most of the 139 employees would telework if given the opportunity, but only 36 percent have been given the chance. Telework is seen as positive by supervisors 45 percent of the time and employees 82 percent of the time, the study concluded.

“I was a little surprised by the results,” CDWG president James Shanks said. “There is a lot of desire by federal workers to have the flexibility to telework, but we didn’t see it going anywhere. I would not have thought there would be so much uncertainty.”

The study also found that a majority of IT workers surveyed did not know if their agency had a telework support plan or a documented telework technical package.

Security remains the top IT concern for teleworkers, 39 percent of the IT workers said. To that end, 18 percent of IT employees said their agency would buy authentication or public-key infrastructure software and 15 percent said their agencies would buy network security or firewall and antivirus software over the next 12 months.

“Sharing best practices would ease security concerns,” Shanks said. “So many employees are unsure because there are no success stories to help them make the determination that teleworking is safe.”

The departments of Commerce, Justice and State, the Small Business Administration and some small agencies are facing a $5 million penalty should they not meet the goal of offering 100 percent of all eligible employees the ability to telework by March.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) added a provision to those agencies’ spending bill that mandates the fine should they miss the deadline [See GCN story].

Wolf said he would request the Government Accountability Office to conduct a governmentwide study in the fall on agency telework progress.

"We also have the option of asking Congress to increase the fine to $10 million or $15 million or even $20 million," Wolf said. "I don’t think we would have any problem doing that. We've tried the carrot, and now it is time for the stick."

(Posted 10:51 a.m.; updated 1:06 p.m. Jan. 21)

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